Live trials concluded to put the UK at the forefront of Unmanned Traffic Management innovations

A new report from Connected Places Catapult has concluded following live operational trials for an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) solution to allow commercial drone usage in the UK alongside traditional manned aircraft.

The report is a result of a three year-long Department for Transport (DfT) sponsored project, working alongside industry partners; NATS, Altitude Angel, ANRA Technologies, Cirium, Cranfield University, the Satellite Applications Catapult, Thales UK, WING, GE (AiRXOS), Collins Aerospace and Skylift. Through this programme, the UK is at the forefront of UTM innovation and a step closer to enabling commercial UTM operations within UK airspace.  Adopting the Open-Access UTM Framework as the starting point for future UTM initiatives will enable projects including those funded via UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Future Flight Challenge to build upon the development to date and accelerate future advances in UTM.

The adoption of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) otherwise known as drones, can deliver substantial economic benefits through a range of new applications and business models. UTM will be required to unlock these benefits and provide safe and routine coordination of UAS as we move to increasingly automated and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. 

Connected Places Catapult, in collaboration with the DfT, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and industry stakeholders have developed a national UTM framework called the Open-Access UTM.  This programme has successfully progressed Open-Access UTM from concept through to live field trials, demonstrating how UTM could deliver air traffic management services in the future.   

Mark Westwood, Chief Technology Officer, Connected Places Catapult explained:

“The project has laid the foundations for a national UTM deployment. Through collaboration with industry stakeholders, the trials demonstrated how UTM supports multiple drone operations in real world scenarios. Connected Places Catapult are proud to be at the forefront of such an integral project shaping the development of commercial drone use in the UK.”

If you would like to hear more, you can watch the recording of the UTM webinar which took place on the 16th June 2021 here.

About UTM systems

UTM is a system designed to enable the integration of drones into airspace, including that used by other aircraft. Such a system could potentially enable ubiquitous awareness for drones or drone users of permanent and dynamic airspace restrictions; awareness of other airspace users; conflict detection and resolution between drones and other aircraft; and handle requests for permission to enter or transit through controlled airspace. It is seen as an important step in realising the full potential of drones, including routinely and safely flying ‘beyond visual line of sight’.